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Are entrepreneurship education policies in South Africa effective?

While there are numerous organisations across the continent working to equip young people with entrepreneurial skills, they can only achieve so much without effective government policy and implementation.

By the end of the second quarter in 2022, 45% of South African youth between 15 and 34 years of age remained outside of employment, education and training. While the government is showing some support through various initiatives, like the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI), we have to ask ourselves if these initiatives are doing enough to help entrepreneurs weather ongoing economic uncertainty. 

Small business survival depends on a specific set of requirements, which is undermined by the current economic climate. To help young entrepreneurs achieve their ambitions and thus, continue contributing to long-term economic success, governments need to step-in more.

In fact, it was a central pillar of South African president Cyril Ramaphosa’s 2022 State of the Nation Address. Youth unemployment is a global crisis and there needs to be coordinated solutions that strengthen livelihoods that can only be informed and propelled through policy at local, provincial, and national levels.

It is also critical that educators be able to easily implement that policy, no matter what level they teach at. Failure to get that right and the policy won’t get widespread buy-in and will eventually collapse.

Entrepreneurship education in schools

Here, at least, some progress is being made. In South Africa, the Basic Education Department has run its E3 (Entrepreneurship, Employability and Education) initiative since 2018. The initiative aims to use “project-based learning methodologies to unlock an entrepreneurial mindset.”

E3 uses student-centered learning, including projects and games, in the existing CAPS curriculum to better prepare learners for the modern economy. It also builds an enabling learning environment that requires teachers to know their learners’ interests and learning abilities.

The E3 programme bases its process of pedagogical development on the Constructivist method. Students construct their own understanding and knowledge of the world through experiences and reflection. It is the process of asking questions, of exploration, and of reflection. This way of learning is how Entrepreneurials think and act, and believed to be critical that all learners develop this mindset and the pathways of behaviour from as early as possible.

The country is also set to roll out entrepreneurship hubs at its Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to support graduates looking to move into self-employment. This forms a part of the government’s overall strategy to train young South Africans and develop skills in areas that are needed by the economy.

It is clear that the only way for South Africa to effectively address unemployment and revitalise the economy is through the rediscovery of the entrepreneur who takes risks, breaks new ground and innovates.

It is time that the basic principles of entrepreneurship, such as problem-solving, critical thinking and financial literacy, are taught at school.

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